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Imbert, Cuffie: Shamfa not to blame

Friday, May 19 2017

FINANCE Minister Colm Imbert and Communications Minister Maxie Cuffie yesterday said Tourism Minister Shamfa Cudjoe is not to blame for a $58,379.80 phone bill she incurred while attending a Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) conference in the Bahamas earlier this year.

Imbert and Cuffie said that bill was the result of high roaming charges in the Bahamas which exceed similar charges in countries, inside and outside of the Caricom region.

Imbert reminded reporters that he undertook one leg of a roadshow to raise US$1 billion in the United States last year.

“I used data from time to time when I went on the roadshow last year and I did not incur that bill in the United States,” he stated.

While he could not say how much data he used official business in the US last July, Imbert said, “I can tell you that roaming charges in the US are far less than what I am seeing when I do my preliminary research.” “It depends on the agreement between our local provider TSTT and their counterpart in this particular country.” He said any question which deals with personal judgement, should be directed to Cudjoe. As a government member, Imbert said if the official telephone is used for official business and not for “personal or frivolous reasons”, then he does not see how the question arises about irresponsibility.

He said the facts to be looked at are, “what are the charges for roaming in the Bahamas and whether the data was used, is accepted or not.” Stressing he was not an expert, Imbert said, “I have seen that where the roaming charges in the Bahamas are much higher than many other countries in the world.” For his part Cuffie said, “The roaming rates in the Bahamas are approximately nine to ten percent more than what occurs in other Caricom countries.” A check on a Verizon website showed that roaming charges in the Bahamas could be as high as US$6,000. Another check on an AT&T website showed that it could cost US$2.29 per minute for someone to use their phone in the Bahamas.

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